Detroit Tigers Manager Candidate — Rick Renteria

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The surprise firing of Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria added another name to the pile of potential managers for the 2021 Detroit Tigers.

Rogelio covered the unexpected Rick Renteria news yesterday, and rightly focused on how the White Sox managerial job is objectively more attractive than the Detroit Tigers gig. That presumably makes it less likely the Tigers will be able to land the top two candidates in Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch.

On the other hand, soon after the firing, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the White Sox may be looking to Hall-of-Famer Tony La Russa as their next manager. La Russa is good friends with Chicago’s chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, but he just turned 76, he hasn’t managed since 2011, and Nightengale has an impressive collection of bad takes and incorrect reports to his name. For now we’ll consider La Russa a long shot and assume Cora and Hinch are the favorites in Chicago.

Who is Rick Renteria?

Rick Renteria was a high-school shortstop who was drafted 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980, just ahead of Terry Francona, Billy Beane, and John Gibbons. Like those other future managers, Renteria didn’t find much success on the field. He played in parts of five seasons, with his only extended run coming as an infielder with the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993.

Renteria moved into coaching shortly after his career ended, spending four seasons managing various minor-league affiliates of the Marlins. He then moved into the Padres organization in 2003 and spent five seasons managing in the minors before earning a coaching gig with the big-league club. He became San Diego’s bench coach in 2011 and stayed in that role for three seasons, with a short side job as the manager of Mexico’s 2013 World Baseball Classic team.

In late 2013 the Chicago Cubs hired Renteria to replace Dale Sveum and help guide a young team through it’s late-stage rebuild. The 2014 squad went just 73-89, but that was seven games better than the previous year, and Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Anthony Rizzo all broke out as potential building blocks for the future. But Renteria was unceremoniously fired after just one season, because Joe Maddon was suddenly available.

After a year off, Renteria moved to the south side of Chicago to become bench coach for the White Sox, and then in 2017 he took over as manager after Robin Ventura resigned. Renteria’s promotion coincided with the White Sox going into full rebuild mode, with the club trading away Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, and Chris Sale, and over the next three seasons Chicago went just 201-284.

But the 2019 club showed signs of life, and this year Renteria led the White Sox to a 35-25 record and their first trip to the playoffs since 2008. They fell in the wild card round, but it looked as though Renteria would be leading Chicago for the foreseeable future. Then the two parties agreed to “part ways” with one year left on Renteria’s deal.

It’s hard to know for sure what happened. Some fans have pointed to a 2-8 finish that saw the White Sox fall from the #1 seed in the American League to 2nd in the AL Central. Others suggested it was Renteria’s puzzling pitching decisions in Game 3 of the Wild Card series against Oakland.

So far the only rumor has come from Ken Rosenthal:

The phrase “hold players more accountable” lets the mind wander a bit. Were players skipping workouts? Were they playing Fortnite instead of studying the opposition? Were they in the clubhouse eating fried chicken and drinking beer? Rosenthal isn’t usually in the business of spreading gossip, but in a world where scoops matter, sometimes you have to write what the teams want you to.

Is Rick Renteria a Fit for the Detroit Tigers?

In his post-season meeting with the media, Tigers general manager Al Avila told reporters he was unlikely to hire someone without coaching experience.

“One thing you could eliminate is a guy that played and has absolutely no coaching experience, no managerial experience and goes from being a player directly to a major-league manager,” Avila said. “I probably wouldn’t go that way. But everything else is in play.”

With more than 2,500 games of managerial experience — and just over 700 at the big-league level — Renteria doesn’t have to worry about that. Avila also said he wanted a manager who could motivate and discipline players, and he wants a manager with “tremendous leadership qualities.”

Rosenthal’s tweet throws the discipline factor into question, and it’s hard to evaluate Renteria’s motivational and leadership qualities from afar. His track record seems solid in that regard, but we really have no idea.

Renteria does have some history with the Detroit Tigers. The team interviewed him for the manager job in 2013 after Jim Leyland stepped down, and he briefly played for Leyland’s Pirates in 1986.

And interestingly enough, Renteria spent two short stints in the Detroit Tigers organization in 1991 and 1992, with his second run with the club ending after the Tigers sold him and Fernando Valenzuela to the Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican League.

It’s unclear if the Tigers are interested in Rick Renteria, or if Renteria is looking for another manager job, but his sudden availability certainly gives the club someone else to consider.

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